When we first caught a glimpse of Uncharted, it was through a series of leaked photos that showed off the game's insanely detailed environments. When Naughty Dog revealed our strapping character hanging off a tree mouths of gamers dropped everywhere, be it from awe or jealousy. There's no doubt that Uncharted was an impressive achievement considering how early into the PlayStation 3's life it was released. Granted, there were still some spots to be improved on…and that's exactly what Naughty Dog has done with the sequel.
Normally, it's the gameplay that I'll rant about first, but in this case, I have to make a special exception for just how amazing the visuals are of the sequel. What's even more impressive is that the product I saw was still in its pre-alpha stage, which means there's still a lot of work left to do. But technical jargon aside, what I immediately noticed about Uncharted 2 was that despite its early state, the framerate was exceptionally smooth. What I noticed next floored me the most, though, and that's just how absolutely stunning the textures are.
Where as the first game sported nice textures, this one seems to be leagues ahead of the original. And then there are the animations, which still have work left, but also look marvelous. When I walked away from the game I had no doubt in my mind that Uncharted 2 is without question the best looking title in development right now, and not just for the PlayStation 3, that includes the Xbox 360. People have been making many "Crysis" comparisons in the past with the original Uncharted, Gears of War 2, and Killzone 2, but none of them held a candle to Crytek's behemoth. And that's where Uncharted 2 comes in as the first console game that is truly worthy of the comparison. It's powerful stuff, folks.
The gameplay retained that of the original, so you still have that feeling that you're playing a mixture of Indiana Jones and Gears of War, which is awesome. But where Uncharted differs from Gears is in its hand-to-hand mechanics, as Naughty Dog gave Nate an assortment of abilities that allow him to engage in combat when he's weaponless, allowing to him to disarm, as well as take-down. This aspect of the game has been improved on, as Naughty Dog has implemented a deeper hand-to-hand system where timing and precision is more crucial to combat, otherwise you'll leave yourself vulnerable to a hit. You'll be able to perform counter attacks, as will the enemy when you've mistimed your button press, and perform a variety of different takedown animations – all of which are brutal and really cool.
Another big feat for the sequel is a feature that allows Nate to scale the environments in new ways. Now Nate can climb and scale walls with more freedom, allowing him more movement along the object he's scaling, in addition to retaining his previous assortment of abilities. The other notable new feature gives Nate the ability to lift and flip furniture over and use it as cover when you're being rained with bullets. You can't use the same object for an extensive period of time, so you'll likely need to move on to find new cover.
The enemy A.I. has been enhanced, and to offset those enhancements, they've also been balanced. For example, now your opponents can spot you from their peripheral vision. And unlike say, Metal Gear, if an enemy thinks he saw something, he'll run with that instinct and come looking for you, going as far as climbing walls or jumping from ledge to ledge. And if he doesn't find you, he'll remain extra alert.
In order to balance this heightened sense, Naughty Dog has listened to complaints fans of the original game made regarding the amount of bullets it took to kill an enemy. Where as Uncharted required as many as six bullets to take someone down, no matter the armor (or lack thereof) they were wearing, Uncharted 2 is much more realistic in that regard. Regular, unarmored enemies can be taken down in 1-3 shots, where as armored foes can require anywhere between 1-5, and so on. The amount of bullets you'll shell out (pun intended) will depend on the attire worn by the enemy.
One big question remains and Naughty Dog has yet to answer it: will there be co-op gameplay? Seeing as how the game now boasts two armed characters, Nate and Chloe, it'd make perfect sense that Uncharted 2 boast such an option. While Naughty Dog won't confirm it, there's a damn good chance it's coming and seeing as how Uncharted 2 boasts controls similar to Gears, this could be the first grand co-op action experience PlayStation 3 owners are given.
Look for Uncharted 2 to hit this Fall 09.